GLENVILLE — Upgrades announced Friday could make a dent in the number of trucks making dents in a low railroad bridge along Glenridge Road.
The state Department of Transportation said flashing beacons will be installed beside the existing low-clearance signs as an interim measure; work is expected to start in December.
Then, an electronic detection and warning system will be installed. Overheight vehicles will trigger an electronic message board warning the driver that his vehicle is too tall and activate flashing lights on the low-clearance signs. The system also will send an alert to the state DOT Traffic Management Center.
Meanwhile, a turnaround area for large trucks will be created on one side of the bridge and a potential diversion route will be considered on the other.
Design work is underway for the warning system and turnaround site. Factoring in the time needed to acquire space to build the turnaround along Glenridge Road — a state road also known as Route 914V — the work could be completed in 2023.
The westernmost of the two bridges over the road linking the town center to Clifton Park has been smashed so many times it would be comical, were it not for the dozens of traffic snarls that result each year and the chance that someone will be hurt by metal sheared off a too-large truck and flung into oncoming traffic.
Such an injury was reported last summer.
Tractor-trailers usually top out at 13.5 feet. There’s not quite 11 feet of air between the Canadian Pacific Railway bridge and the road surface below.
No fewer than 14 signs on the approaches to the bridge near Hetcheltown Road warn of this low clearance. Another railroad bridge farther east on Glenridge Road is high enough that large trucks can pass beneath.
The problem is often attributed to driver inattention or overreliance on navigation programs designed for cars, not big trucks.
Glenville Town Supervisor Chris Koetzle said the only thing that would be 100% successful would be raising the bridge, a very expensive prospect.
Failing that, he’d like to see trucks banned from the road and the road tweaked to make it hard for trucks to enter.
Failing that, he welcomed Friday’s announcement and said he’s eager for more information.
“This is a good first step and I am glad to see that the state is finally starting to implement some of the ideas that we have advocated for over the years,” he said via email.
“However, questions remain and I hope the state will sit down with the town to discuss the details of the plan. There are many concerns relating to the safety and effectiveness of this plan and DOT should be embracing the town’s input as we continue our work together to make this important corridor safer for our residents.”
The last few years have seen more than 100 crashes and many other trucks stopped just before impact. Both situations are disruptive, as town police must limit traffic so damaged trucks and debris can be removed or undamaged trucks can back up and turn around.
But amid this sorry narrative of twisted metal, bruised egos and unbudgeted expenses, the morning of Nov. 8, 2021, stands out as particularly egregious, with three strikes in four hours.
Sen. James Tedisco, R-Glenville, and Assemblywoman Mary Beth Walsh, R-Ballston, whose districts include the bridge, dashed off a missive to DOT demanding action later that day.
They’ve raised this issue before with no visible result, and Tedisco said Friday he’s happy to see something happening, even if it’s only flashing lights to start.
“My first reaction is hallelujah,” he said. “They’ve been striking the bridge a lot. I think we struck a note with [DOT] last week.
Anything is better than nothing right now.”
Human failure is causing the bridge strikes. The great majority of striking vehicles are coming from the west, and there are nine warning signs in less than a mile along the westbound lane of Glenridge Road.
The measures announced Friday will be just as ineffective as the signs already in place if drivers don’t pay attention to the warnings.
DOT Commissioner Marie Therese Dominguez called out distracted drivers and truckers relying on non-commercial GPS programs that don’t flag height and weight restrictions.
“I can’t stress enough that it is incumbent upon all drivers to operate their vehicles in a safe manner, and to pay attention and obey the multiple signs that are already in place at this location,” she said in a news release Friday.